not a pretty girl

a new person with each new experience

Saturday, July 24, 2004

marike is always saying that it is important to watch the tv shows, movies, videos in teh mainstream so you can see, understand and critique how our society is being constructed.  From a cultural studies perspective I can see how watching these dating show, extreme make over, and trading spouces is interesting.  you can see the different ways that race, class and gender are being constructed.  you can see the accepted norms in our society, you can see changes in the constructions and therefore know what direction to go when trying to combat the stereotypes being developed through pop culture.  you are also able to inticipate political moves with the rhetoric being used through out pop culture. 

Yet I have seen enought and wonder how do I escape this society.  I can choose to associate with people who are activily trying not to be oppressive and working towards changing those structures, but I am not able to choice a society that is not oppressive.  With the combination of the horrible dirrection of reality tv, privitisation and the new right and nepatism without knowing anybody that is anybody I really feel some days that I want to escape this reality. 

When I was in amsterdam I went to this talk about privitisation of educaition, this guy from india was doing a talk on his experiences of fighting privitisation of universities in india.  He story saddly was so similar to every other story - regardless of the methods the univeristy has implimented the results are higher fees, less time to participate in activism and the decline of quality of student life and education.  While I was in the workshop I heard stories from mexico, spain, germany, norway, belgium, holland and I added in stories from Ireland.  I think the most striking moment was realising that this is not just a western problem - the neoliberalism and privitisation of public services and goods such as education seemed more and more universal. 

In this realisation there was a sense of solidarity and we were exchanging stratigies and success stories yet at the same time there was the feeling that these powers that we were fighting against were so extremely prevelant and even our small successes were only temperary.  We became aware that although our universities were saying No to privisation they were contracting out security, resturants, and other services on the campus.  Business building and computer labs were being funded by outside sources.  And all these supposed positive things that are being brought to our education were only there to make more money and minimalise dissent.

Having a better picture of this universal greed that we are up against was further cemented when we got into a discussion about cops and intelligence.  The conversation started after a group of people I was walking with in amsterdam noticed these cops chacing this guy.  They knocked him on the ground and without noticing that we were watching started to kick him.  The group of us moved in and our presence was noticed.  The no longer kicked him, he left you wondering what they would do to him once he was in there territory and there were no witnesses to stop there violence.

We started to exchange stories about cops and our experiences with them, these two people were in maimi this past year and were talking about that expereince.  Plus they were talking about this cop from what ever city they are from who five years ago didn't know how to handle protests.  But now is actually summit hoping and there is exchange of knowledge between cops from different states so ensure the repression of dissent. 

I remember fin saying that we had the benifit of having networks around the world with other protestors and that we have the surprise factor if we wanted to add in a new action to our protests to catch the cops off guard.  Saying we could only do a new action once before they catch on to us and contain the events once again.  I wonder how well we can use the element of surprise when the cops have the same level of networks and experiences that we do and they may be ready for more then we think they are.

There are days I feel like getting away from it all and living in a commune, creating a community that I feel good about - yet that would be an attempt at just escaping the problem and not actually doing anything about it-plus you cannot just escape from this world, regardless how many strategies you impliment to attempt to break all ties with this world you still have to be connected to it and something that you are doing is probably related to explotation or oppression at some level.  I suppose it is the hippy equivilant to crimethinc.  you are still living off the system even if you say you don't want to participate in it.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

I have seen a few dating shows lately that have seriously disturbed me.  In an era of Temptation Island, dating shows have lost much of their innocence and coyness.  People seem to want to know what they are getting themselves into before going on that precious date.  A few weeks back I sat, mouth opened in shock while I watched this dating show on mtv.  The show was based around the idea that the best way to get to know someone is by going through there room.  So the women, who all lived with their parents still, agreed to participate . . . I’m sure they begged to go on actually.  Without prior knowledge they where pried from there homes and placed in this truck where together they could watch this stranger filtered through their things. 
The guy then, who said his hobbies were women and his nic name was playboy, went through their underwear to see if they were sexy enough for him, read their poetry to see if they were ‘normal’ enough for him, and went through their clothes and stuff to see if they were cool enough for him.  The whole while comments like “ahh how cute” were echoed from the girls.  
A friend pointed out that this whole thing could be a set up and predetermined, regardless the idea that it is ok to invade someones privacy and judge your combatability with someone by the size of there bra cup and the sexiness of their underwear contributes to the complete objectification of the women and the idea that these are the traits that one should look for in a perspective partner.
The “winner” of the show was picked based on her nice house, her underwear, the fact that she is a cheerleader and that she tried out for American idol . . .(the playboy tried out too, he thinks he should be in a boyband, ahh how cute).  The one thing he didn’t like about her is that she smoked so as a present for being picked he gave her nicoret gum, ahh how sweet, he is trying to control her already!!! 
Regardless of the specifics of this sexiest asshole with the playboy bunny on the front of his card and naked women plastering his walls, the whole show was creepy and extremely violating.  It validated the jealous spying thing that you hear about in some unhealthy relationships.
Back in Toronto I have seen a few more dating shows, the first one was shocking but does crack me up.  The idea is that best way to get to know someone is to learn about someone is from exs.  So what happens is a guy and a girl go out on a date, all the while the girl has an ear piece that is connected to the guy past two exs.  While on the date she is feed information and told to ask embarrassing questions.  The exs are trying to convince the new girl not to go out with him.  The way he finds out if he woed her regardless of the gossip he opens this limos door, if the girl is there they go on a second date if not his two exs are their and they get a day at a spa. 
The thing about this show is that the two on the date don’t actually get to know each other at all.  The girl does not come up with any of her own questions or ideas, she is fead what to say and ask from the exs.  There is also the assumption that guys and girls once broken up no longer stay friends and that they would not want their exs to be happy in a new relationship.
The final one I say today is not a new idea.  It is one of those shows where four girls go on a date with one guy at the same time and he eliminates them one at a time.  This particular episode was exceptionally disturbing with extreme sexism, homophobia, sizism and anti-geek comments the whole way through.  Regardless of the particular show where the mom kept saying eliminate the chubby one, she is not his type.  The show encourages fighting among women for macho guys.  It is less about getting to know the guy then it is about putting another women down.  Whenever I have seen one of these the guy usually is horrible, extremely sexist, and yet the women fight over him.  And when a woman challenges his behaviour she doesn’t have to wait for him to defend himself since there are enough women out there ready to do it for him.  What is interesting about this particular show is that is not who wants to marry a millionare or about getting a date with some rich guy.  These women were fighting over some guy who still lives at home with his parents.  So sad. 
When ever I see these shows I am rooting for the women to cop on and name the guy for what he is and leave . . . but that would not be good for ratings.  Feminist would most likely not go on the show anyways but if they did their politics are not sexy so I’m sure they would be cut.  I wonder what a feminist or queer dating show would look like, the queer one would get ratings but I’m sure feminist dating show is contradictory in terms.  Having a camera document dating seems to add a level of the gaze and objectification that may not work within those politics.  

Sunday, July 18, 2004

random tid bit - I went to buy a pair of flip flops, all the ones in my size had heals on them  . . . what the fuck!  while we are at it, I say these shoes in a shop in vienna, converse hightops with pointed toes and heals . . . worse I say someone wearing them in amsterdam.  In this feminist backlash fashion, I think the worst still is the shoes regan and I saw in winners last summer, construction boots with stellettos.  seriously thats not the way to fuck with gender!
I have noticed more and more femisist backlash in clothing, pop culture and advertising.  the girl power thing went from riot grrl, to cutsy girl, now to embracing the bitchy catty girl.  I have seen shirts saying things like back off slut and so on.  The t-shirts are interesting, the kind with the little phrases that I use to by a few years back.  You could easily find shirts that said things like pussy power, one women army, all the emily stuff and so on.  Even though the emily shirts have exploded everywhere you can only get those feminist style shirts in specialized shows like women sex shops, women book stores, squats and so on.  When you go into you cheesy t-shirt shop, they are more likely to be individualist and rude or embrassing womens sexuality in what I see is a negative way. 
and seriously this shoe thing is an issue, I was thinking that it was a very irish thing for all the girls to be wearing these extremely short skirts and stilletto shoes.  I was looking forward to the fashion that I thought was common in TO.  you get the girls with those outfits but they are restricted to certain pop culture that is seamingly marginalised.  The "sub-culture" fashion is more the norm here.  runners and flip flop in the summer, used clothing, funky fashion and NOT the high end girly stuff you see in europe.  The girly stuff is all the very cute girl stuff, the mix and match of tom boy and femme, the soft femme.  But these shoes are ruining that.  They are taking what women have claimed for themselves and feminising it.  As if when a women wears something that is not stereotypical feminine she has to apologize in some way. 
In other sub cultures you see this done in other ways, for example body builders who are taking up space in a male dominated culture and are physically emboding the "male" body tend to wear tons of make up and jewllery.  This process of feminising themselves is done as an apology for taking over "male" traits and professions.  I know the flip flop is not masculine but the converse and the construction boot can be seen more that way.  But what the flip flop says is that even when chilln' the women is conserned with fashion and looking sexy for the male.  Having a heal on a flip flop takes away every reason for having them in the first place.  It removes the casualness of them, it takes away the fuction of wearing them around the pool.  In blends with the sandle you are suppose to wear dressing up with the sandle you are suppose to wear for more athletic and leisure events.
some people are all about europe and fashion but I remember being in Italy two summers ago and even the women cops were wearing heals, seriously the fashion and gender distinctions were so bold.  I felt a sence of relief walking down a TO street after coming back and seeing a more androgenous style, a style that didn't say money, a style that allowed for movement and comfort while at the same time looking great.  It is true even here the style has gotten more femme over the past few years but it is no where near the high femme flashy fashion of europe. 
And it is not that I have an issue if someone chooses to like that as their mode of expression.  And all the more power to my high femme friends who take up space and don't put up with any shit.  It is only when the mainstream cultre is pushing these highly gendered and highly seuxalized fashions it makes me conserned how people are relating to these clothes, both the women wearing the fashion and those who are objectfy them in the outfits. 
The few friends I have who are femme understand very well the stregth with that postion and they understand how they may be seen, but they are strong and it doesn't take long to realize no matter what these women are wearing they are not dolls, they will not keep silent and they will not take any shit.  Thats gender fucking for you.